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In discussing King Penda and his deeds, you use the term “Tirfast” several times to describe him, but without further explanation. My subconscious reaction to this word brought forth the image of Tiw or Tyr and the idea of holding fast to him, i.e. remaining true to that God most representative to the Germanic peoples of oath-taking and loyalty. I googled the word, and found it in two works: _Of the origin of romantic fiction in Europe_ “2: On the introduction of learning into England” (Thomas Warton, Jr., Joseph Ritson, Dr. George Ashby, R. Price – January 1, 1824), and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle presented in Henry Scale’s work, Ancient History, English and French (J. Hatchard and son, 1830). It’s unclear to me how the latter is translating the word, but the former goes into great detail about its possible etymology, translating it as “exceeding fast or firm.” I’m curious to know if you intend both meanings, since the primary characteristics you highlight about King Penda are his steadfast devotion to the ancestral Gods in the face of a rising tide of Christian influence in Britain during his time, and his unswerving loyalty to his Mercian people and to those with whom he seems to have made sacred oaths.
On this Sunday morning, as I ride the fence between my Christian life that has arisen in response to my love for my wife, and my Pagan heritage, upbringing, and sentiments, I feel quite convicted in my soul by the word “Tirfast.” It reminds me of a quality which I have let slip away as I have endeavored to please my wife and family. I have not shown weoh toward the Gods. I have not observed the traditional festivals. Instead, I have sought in vain to understand my relationship to a Christ whose proponents I do not trust. Your perspective on the life of Penda gives me pause, because I count him among my ancestral heroes, and have discerned many of the same conclusions about his life as you have in combing through the biased source material available through Wikipedia on him.
My WordPress avatar is a picture of Bishop Chad of Mercia from a church window. I chose it while researching about him and Penda’s son Wulfhere for a story I am composing (it is actually the background material for a fantasy setting, which I see by your other WordPress page is something to which you can relate). Had my pursuit of Theodish Heathenry remained unchecked by my Christian backsliding, I might have chosen Wulfhere instead, or perhaps even his tirfast father, to use as an avatar on WordPress.
What would King Penda do? He would probably advise me to be a good Christian, and not to forsake my baptismal vow, as it is as sacred an oath as any I might take to Tiw and His kindred. Furthermore, he would remind me of my duty to my wife and household. One Heathen way which I have not forsaken, however, is the worship of my ancestors. Thank you for opening up a window through which I may visit with my ancient forbear, King Penda the Tirfast, whom I claim through my great-great grandfather, Homer Howard, whose ancestors were from Kingston-Upon-Hull, once a part of the Kingdom of Deira. Although I cannot establish a direct link, I have felt Penda in my blood since I first saw his name.
Hey! Yes, the word tirfast … the word Tir was substituted for the name of the god Tiw in the Old English Rune Poem. It means *glory* — coinciding with Tiw’s by-name “the Leavings of the Wolf”, ie. the grave, in the Viking Age material — while tirfast means *glorious*. Sometimes I forget that some words that I am very familiar with aren’t so familiar too others.
I don’t think that Penda was too keen on Christianity myself; wherever that stops short of him being against it. Mind you, with 1300 years of evidence now at our disposal, his opinion on that might well change. lol
But it would indeed seem that Penda’s advice to any person would be, if they received Christianity at all, to practice it with integrity.
I would point out further that personal belief was not much of an issue in elder heathenry. So long as a person took part in their community, and honoured the ways of said community, they were free to believe as they will.
I personally have found over the years that I would rather share my time with a person who is, culturally, more Anglo-Germanic, no matter who or what or if they worship, than with someone who merely professes the same pantheon as me.
Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed my Penda yarn! Godspeed on your path!
I just stumbled upon your blog and really like the info. I run two facebook pages devoted to heathenry with over 45,000 members as well as having a youtube channel to examine concepts and I visit ancient sites. Your examinations into the ancient Germanic roots is of particular interest to me, and I cant wait to read more. I will also be sharing your articles a bit. Anyway just wanted to say hi as I am sure I will pose questions at some point
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